Portugal’s School System is similar to other countries education systems. Portugal is a country located in southwest Europe, and its territory comprises archipelagos of the Madeira and Azores, in the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, education in Portugal is managed by the state through the Ministry of Education, Higher Education, and Science.

Portugal School System - Know More About International Schools and the Education System in Portugal

However, in Portugal, public and private educational institutions are available at all educational levels. The higher education system of Portugal is completely integrated into the European Higher Education Area.

CHECK IT OUT: Branksome Hall – Branksome Day and Boarding School with Their Payment Plans

The first Portuguese medieval universities, such as the University of Coimbra, were formed in the 13th century.

Portugal School System

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Higher Education are jointly responsible for managing the country’s education system. They get support from the Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity in providing preschool education.

However, In Portugal, you have the option to choose either a state school (generally free) or a private school. Moreover, the Portuguese school system comprises the following educational level; Pre-school Education, Basic Education, Secondary education, and Higher education.

Pre-Primary/Kindergarten Education

Children between the age of 3 and 5 years attend pre-primary schools. Pre-primary education is imparted by public, private, and cooperative nursery schools, including kindergarten. However, this particular educational level is not compulsory. In Portugal, education is free and mandatory until the age of 18.

Basic Education

Basic education is mandatory to attend and is free in Portugal. This education lasts for 9 years and is split up into 3 cycles:

1st cycle: This cycle lasts for a period of 4 years and one single teacher is responsible for teaching students.

2nd cycle: This cycle lasts for a period of 2 years and different teachers are responsible for teaching a wide range of subjects.

3rd cycle: This cycle lasts for a period of 3 years and one teacher is responsible for teaching the given subject area. However, this particular cycle covers vocational studies also. At the end of this cycle, a diploma/certificate is awarded.

Secondary Education

Secondary school in Portugal is compulsory. The secondary school level enhances the knowledge and skills gained at the basic educational level and additionally prepares students for higher education or the job market.

However, this education lasts for 3 years and to gain admittance into this level, students must have completed the basic education. This educational level comprises general courses, artistic and vocational or technical courses.

Vocational Secondary Education: The vocational secondary courses comprise the following; socio-cultural, scientific, and technical components. Upon successful completion of the vocational course, students are awarded a level III vocational qualification. Pupils who graduate from vocational institutions can go for higher education.

Adult Education: Adult education offers an opportunity to pursue basic and secondary school education. This opportunity is for students aged 15 or above for basic education courses, and 18 or above for secondary education courses.  The adult education course comprises; general education undertaken by all pupils, scientific education, and technical training.

Arts Courses: The art courses are offered in the basic education-all three cycles, secondary education, and higher education level. Special arts courses are provided in the visual arts, dance, and music.

Higher Education

Higher education in Portugal is divided into two main educational systems: the university and the non-university system. The University system is the oldest and is research-oriented. It deals more with theoretical education and training and comprises 13 public universities, 1 public university institute, a public Open University, and many private universities and university institutes.

While Non-university education started in the 1980s when the former commercial and industrial educational institutions were transformed into administration and engineering higher education institutions. This higher school system is profession-oriented and lays emphasis on practical education and training.

There are many state-run polytechnic institutes, public and private non-integrated polytechnic institutions in Portugal. Higher Education Qualifications: take a look at the educational qualifications offered in higher education;

Licenciado: This degree in general, lasts for 3 years and is offered by both university and polytechnic institutes.

Master’s degree (Mestrado): Master’s degree lasts for 1-2 years and is offered by both universities and polytechnics in Portugal.

Doctorate (Doutoramento): A doctorate degree is awarded by universities in Portugal after passing a doctorate exam and public defense of a doctoral thesis. And students must hold a degree or a master’s degree or its equivalent to gain admittance into the doctorate program.

Aggregation (Agregacao): This is the highest qualification given to the students who have their doctor’s degrees. This qualification requires candidates to take up research in a particular field.

Education In Portugal for International Students

Do you want to study in Portugal? You can find English-speaking international schools in Portugal, especially in primary and secondary education. Thus, these schools are mostly in the Greater Lisbon area and the Algarve. However, for more information on the location of schools, see our Portugal International school listings.

Study Visa; international students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland do not require visas to enter Portugal. So, to know whether you need a student visa or not, kindly read the post “Study Visa for Portugal”.

What is the School System Like in Portugal?

The Portuguese education system is divided into preschool education, basic education, and tertiary education. Education is free and compulsory until the age of 18, and students usually complete their year 12 at that point. Primary education in Portugal comprises nine years of schooling, divided into three cycles of education which last four, two, and three years.

Public education is free with the exception of universities, for which you will need to pay tuition. While Portugal offers a mix of state and private schools, most Portuguese families send their children to state schools because they are free. Each region in Portugal has different school hours and holidays, while international schools work according to the school calendar of their home country.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here